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--- On Sun, 1/22/12, James Hyett <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> So, I've been thinking recently of writing a short, one-act play possibly
> to use in next year's season of a local amateur drama
> festival, about conlangs. The basic story I had in mind was
> set in some sort of wartime type thing (nothing too serious,
> not much tragedy) between different conlangs, fighting
> against those that speak differently to themselves.

So, the characters are the languages themselves, or speakers of the 
languages?

>  A group of people get kicked out of their respective groups, decide
> to form their own language to fight in the war, but for
> freedom, and ultimately end up putting more fuel in the flame.

Well, there is an element of conflict here, which is a start. But is there
something more than a bunch of people getting kicked out of the group and
feelings of anger towards those who kicked them out? Frankly, I'm not sure
how this, as stated, is much to go on for a plot. This sounds rather like
a good old fashioned Auxlang flamefest!

Setting it in wartime I think is a plus. Plenty of opportunity for drama,
conflict, seat-of-the-pants escapes, etc. Also opportunity for enemies to
interact and reaffirm their mutual humanity in the midst of mindless
inhumanity. (Assuming that the characters are people and not languages!)

I guess my main question then would be: okay, what happens next? Conlangs
and group tension are two good elements, but what about the over-arching
plot? The main conflict of the work? The big picture!

> I'd quite appreciate some feedback on this idea, and
> suggestions. For example, should I use artlangs exclusively,
> or engelangs, or auxlangs? All three, with each being a sort
> of alliance against the other two? 

It may not matter much. A conlanger in the audience might take notice of
such details, but a theater goer is going to be more interested in how
the conlangs tie into the human drama, and how the conflicts of this
drama are resolved.

Um. You say it's set in wartime. That puts me in mind of perhaps the late
19th century or early 20th -- perhaps WWI? Prime time for auxlangs and
auxlang fever in Europe. 

Another angle: you might be able to work in a link between artlanger
Tolkien (who was in the service at that time as I recall) and a fictional
auxlanger. That could give you a potential conflict between persons. I do
also vaguely recall reading from Tolkien that he encountered a conlanger
while in the service, but was unable to get him to open up about his
secret vice. Perhaps in the play, the other conlanger could eventually
open up (internal conflict) and later fall out with the other conlanger?

> I'm pretty sure I can't
> have everyone speaking different, unheard of languages all
> the time, 

I can see how that would be a turn-off. It's certainly a novel idea, and
there may well be a market of theater goers who will put up with it, but
I can't imagine that very many people who are interested in an amateur
drama festival will be quite thýs prepared to listen through large blocks
of non-English dialogue! Now, I think it can be done -- but you'd need
some really good actors who can communicate to the audience without words.
So they get the emotional gist even without understanding the words
themselves.

I'm put in mind of Passion -- done entirely in ancient languages (though
as I recall with subtitles). The thing about that movie: everyone knew
the plot going in. You've got the uphill battle of presenting a story that
no one actually knows going in. So using lots of conlang dialog could be
a problem, or it could be quite the coup if pulled off.

> so perhaps in scenes with other groups, one would
> speak English, and the other their own language, and in
> scenes with just one group, they'd speak English.

You might consider some way of simultaneously translating (perhaps by 
another character) or describing immediately before or after the conlang 
speech) as a way of informing the audience of what's going on. I can just 
see a whole lot of audience memebers beginning to shuffle their feet, 
check watches, open cell phones... That would be a shame. The problem 
could be diminished if a way of letting people know what's being said is 
developed.

> Also, which languages should I use? I'd been thinking about having-- in
> addition to the overarching Great War-- smaller battles
> amongst similar languages (for example, Quenyans fighting
> 'Black Speakers', or Esperanto v. Ido.) If I do that, I can
> see a few groups already: Lord of the Rings (Quenya, Black
> Speech, Khuzdul, Adunaic, etc.); Star Trek (or maybe just
> sci-fi, then including Doctor Who, Dune, Star Wars, etc.);
> 'Future English' (for example, Blade Runner's "City Speak",
> A Clockwork Orange's "Nadsat", Nineteen Eighty-Four's
> "Newspeak"); Minimalistic/ Philosophical Languages (Toki
> Pona, Earth Minimal, even maybe Laadan); and Jokelangs (Oou,
> Inflationary Language, DiLingo.)So, what do you think?-James

Are you positing that populations fighting in this war speak these
languages? Or that a(n unrealistically high) number of the soldiers on
all sides of the conflict are sci-fi language geeks?

In all honesty, I am left a little confused as to what the play is really
supposed to be about...

As for some practical considerations, that the producer(s) of the drama
festival might be asking you: why would anyone care? That is, how are you
going to draw a mixed / largely non-conlang-savvy audience in to your
story? And an important one: what ýs the story? I read some interesting
devices in use here, but I didn't really see a plot or story outline.

Hope to hear more about this project as time goes on!

Padraic